So the point of my “Your Goals Suck” post was supposed to be that you’ve gotta be clear about what you really want when you define success and accomplishment in life, because the default is to define those things in terms of dollars when in fact the dollars may not be necessary.
But instead, I realize I kind of came off wrong, and that it almost looks like I’m advocating creating actual value in life over materialistic things, or some other hippie bullshit.
Okay, so it’s not bullshit. But I don’t want anyone thinking I don’t like me some good materialism now and again. Just because money has been everywhere from some fat tourist’s sweaty pocket to a stripper’s butt crack, that doesn’t mean that I don’t still want to fill a bathtub with it and roll around in ecstasy.
(And furthermore, since that post ended in the suggestion that I’m going to be launching a new product soon, I don’t want some Robin Hood asshole suggesting later on that I’m a hypocrite when I charge for it. YES, I will want your money when I launch that thing. NOM NOM NOM NOM tasty sexy dirty money.)
Look, I think everyone today has money issues. And I don’t mean issues like you can’t make the car payment and that mutant freak circus from Operation Repo is going to come and take your car away, but more like we kind of all have issues around money, like shrink issues, like lay down on the couch with a wad of bills while some guy with a goatee and a notepad says, “Hmm, and how did that make you feel?” issues.
Like, I think these past few years have been rough on all of us, and what we’ve all kind of learned deep inside is that money equals a common means of exchange (nobody lets you pay your electric bill with a goat anymore) and that the more you have, the better, and moreover that if you have some, you’d better grip it tight and be prepared with some kung fu shit if anyone tries to take it from you.
You know, the scarcity mindset.
I’m trying to break this mindset myself, because I do have issues with money. Money tries to control me; it gets all passive-aggressive with me; when something comes up in my marriage, it’s usually because growing up, my money didn’t love me enough. I lived the past few years in a state of chronic panic because I owned real estate investments in Cleveland, where the market dropped so fast that it actually collapsed in on itself and formed a series of interconnected black holes that now provide superior transportation to what is available via the RTA train.
Live like this for a while, with every cent you earn and a few thousand dollars more flying out the window each month, and see what it does to your hoarding tendencies. In theory, I wanted to give money to the Red Cross, but in reality, let’s see them try and pry a buck out of my hands. The local kids’ clubs would be outside the grocery store collecting for this or that and I’d be like, “Dude, get your own.”
Then I started this business that I’m doing today. And over the course of this past year, things have eased up. That hideous phase of my financial life is finally coming to an end, but now it’s like I want to hang on to my dollars for dear life anyway, and never, ever let them out of my sight.
So, to combat this, I did what most wise people do when faced with financial psychological issues. I decided to become a good tipper in restaurants. You know, to practice.
Flash to my thrilling Saturday night.
We live kind of out in the country, with the “kind of” meaning that although we do have neighbors, those neighbors have sheep out in their yard. So when we go to the areas where there are restaurants, the best places are 35 minutes away.
That’s what we did on Saturday. We drove those 35 minutes, to go to Sam’s Club to stock up, and then to go out to eat.
On the way home, the kids were asleep and so I could woo Robin by showing her how I still knew all the words to “Ice Ice Baby” (“girlies on standby waiting just to say Hi… did you stop? No, I just drove by”) but on the way out, the long drive essentially just gave my daughter Sydney a nice long time to play her favorite new car game.
It sounds like this:
She says, “Daddy.”
And you’re in the middle of a sentence, so you ignore her.
And she repeats, a bit more urgently, “Dad-day!”
And so you stop your discussion and you half-turn and say, “Yes?”
And she goes, “Birdie.”
So you tell her how that’s the most amazing thing ever and resume your adult conversation. As many as ten seconds will pass and then again she’s interrupting you urgently, like, “Dad-day. Dad-DAY!”
So you ignore her a bit, because this is like the tenth time already.
So maybe you go like, “Quiet.”
“Sydney, knock it off.”
“What? What is it? What could you possibly want?”
And she returns to her normal voice and says, “Car.”
It goes on like that for like a half hour, and then we get out and buy a bunch of stuff at Sam’s Club, and when we’re done, when we’re leaving and getting really hungry, it sucks because the Girl Scouts aren’t selling cookies yet at the exit, and that’s not cool because I want to buy some of those damn cookies already and I’m HUNGRY, and all of this despite the fact that I pre-ordered 13 boxes through my gym (and don’t even get me started on the notion that this happened at my fucking gym) and Sydney is still like “DAD-DAY!” every two seconds and Austin keeps hopping off of the shopping cart so that I run into his foot and then we try to go to this hibachi place but it’s full out the door and we end up at Ruby Tuesday and I just want some damn food already and to sit down and relax a bit, and we’d promised Austin ice cream earlier (to coerce him into skipping a sledding run we didn’t have time for) and I decide I want an ice cream sundae too at the end, because I’m tired and because the Girl Scouts are entirely too slow on delivery.
But the waiter tells me that the sundae bar is $3 for all-you-can eat, and I’m like, “I just want like one little sundae.” See, I’m getting my winter fat on, and honestly, all I need is all-you-can-eat. Plus, I’m having disproportionate concern over that $3 because, you know, every cent is vital to my family’s continued existence on the planet.
So the kid, this waiter who’s already been really attentive and generally cool and in really positive spirits despite handling a table of like a billion behind me, he says kind of on the sly that he can bring me a single-serving sundae for like $1.19 if he rings it up as the kids’ version.
For some reason, this offer is super-awesome to me. Because I’m tired and because $1.79 is apparently some huge amount of money.
I eat, I enjoy. It’s winter; give me a break.
Five minutes later, the check comes and our total is $40.14 and I mentally calculate, okay, maybe I put down five bucks for the tip.
But then I think, “Dude, this kid did right by you. And you’re not throwing money down the investment black hole anymore.” And frankly, I have this notion that being awesome and not bitching about life should be rewarded, and maybe it’s time to pay attention to that idea myself, for a change.
So I put down $50 and told him I didn’t need change.
Okay, stop here for a second, because this may sound like I think I’m some great philanthropist or martyr or something because I’m giving a few more bucks on a tip. I don’t. But… wow… paying extra for something? You get down to a tip, where it’s up to my discretion, and I give more than I have to? Wow, that’s foreign. That’s a mindbender. You get in this mindset where you pay what you’re asked, and if you aren’t asked, you don’t pay.
Remember the Red Cross and the kids outside the supermarket? They were trying to get me Lucky Charms. That wasn’t cool.
But now I think that a natural part of growth is to start circulating some goodness where you can, even if it’s in small ways like leaving a few extra bucks on a tip or tossing something in the coffee can the kids have outside of your supermarket. Like when that thing comes in the mail for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, maybe you finally write them a check. Maybe you try to remind yourself that you don’t need to hold each dollar in a death grip, so that your brain figures out that you truly believe more will come.
You know, the scarcity mindset. Like, this is how you fight it.
And a few minutes later, after the waiter kid has presumably run our check, he comes back and kind of in a low voice thanks me again, like seriously and earnestly this time. Like you get the impression that not many people tip more than 10-15%.
And I’ll admit it; that felt good. It wasn’t much, but it did feel nice to reward this hard-working kid who was pleasant and friendly and good at his job, and probably kind of needing every dollar that he makes.
I really do love the idea of charity. You read shit like this (last subhead near the bottom) and you think how awesome it would be to do. I know Naomi felt really good after that, like it did her good to do it as much as it helped the kids who’d attend the school she was going to build.
I’ve heard it said that there’s no such thing as a selfless good deed, because people who do good deeds are ultimately doing them to make themselves feel better, to feel noble, or to alleviate their own uncomfortable feelings about seeing the suffering of others. But I don’t see it that way. That’s too nihilistic. I keep talking about win/win thinking, and this is just one more example of win/win. The recipients of charity win. The giver wins. Everyone is happy.
There’s not really a lesson to this story. I was stingy as all hell for a long time, and I wasn’t going out of my way to over-tip even when the waiter or waitress was really awesome. I wasn’t giving to anyone, so I’m not exactly casting a moral imperative as I write this now.
But if you’re hanging on to each buck, consider that maybe there’s a possibility that you don’t really need to be doing so. Maybe you’re not in the dire straits you think you’re in, deep down.
If that’s the case, then tossing a ten or a twenty into the can when the Salvation Army is out collecting might just do you a world of good.
Something to think about.
My partner in crime Lee Stranahan and I will be launching our new course, Question the Rules: The nonconformist’s punk rock, DIY, nuts-and-bolts guide to creating the business and life you really want, starting with what you already have, on Wednesday, April 28.
It’s ridiculously jam-packed: 5 course modules on how to rock your business and life as an entrepreneur who colors outside the lines, and over a dozen interviews with successful rule-breakers whose names you’ll recognize.
If you’re a punk rock entrepreneur (and I know you are), you’ll want to check it out here because we’re offering an immediate free bonus prior to launch day.